George R.R. Martin's superb fantasy epic continues in consummate style as bloodshed and alchemy lay waste the Seven Kingdoms in the second volume of A Song of Ice and Fire.
The Iron Throne once united the Sunset Lands, but King Robert is dead, his widow is a traitor to his memory, and his surviving brothers are set on a path of war amongst themselves. At King's Landing, the head of Lord Eddard Stark rots on a spike for all to see. His daughter Sansa is still betrothed to his killer's son Joffrey - Queen Cersei's son, though not the son of her late husband Robert. Even so, Joffrey is now a boy-king, Cersei is his regent, and war is inevitable.
In Dragonstone, Robert's brother Stannis has declared himself king, while his other brother Renly proclaims himself king at Storm's End - and Eddard Stark's fifteen-year-old son Robb wears the crown of the north at Winterfell. A comet in the night sky, red and malevolent, the colour of blood and flame, can only be an omen of murder and war. Stannis' child Princess Shireen dreams of dragons waking from stone. And a white raven has brought word from the Citadel itself, foretelling summer's end. It has been the longest summer in living memory, lasting ten years, and the smallfolk say it means an even longer winter to come.